Tag Archives: Weather

On the Virtue of Being “Set in Stone”: The Cornerstone of the Supreme Court of Canada

A few weeks ago, I had the chance to participate in Doors Open Ottawa. This is an annual event in Ottawa where some of the oldest (or most celebrated) buildings in the city open their doors to the public for free tours. While visiting the Supreme Court of Canada, I heard a fascinating tale that I hadn’t heard before involving the Queen and the laying of the cornerstone for the building that houses the Supreme Court of Canada.

Have you ever heard the phrase, “set in stone?” I’m sure you have — you’ve probably even used it yourself. Well, it turns out that there just might be a bit more wiggle room than previously thought when it comes to something being set in stone.

In 1939, there was a Royal Visit to Canada planned for Queen Elizabeth. On this trip, the Queen was set to lay the cornerstone for the building that would house the Supreme Court of Canada (until that point, the Supreme Court had been operating out of one of the buildings on Parliament Hill). As the schedule was meticulously crafted, the person responsible for carving the date into the cornerstone already knew when it was going to be laid. So, the date on the cornerstone was etched in as the nineteenth day of May, 1939.

Given that this was going to be a Royal Visit to Canada, there were other things on the schedule, besides the laying of the cornerstone for the Supreme Court of Canada. There were plans to take a train across Canada to visit all the way to Vancouver! However, there was one thing that wasn’t accounted for in the timeline of the trip — the weather. That is, when the Queen travelled by sea to Canada from the UK, there was heavy fog that delayed the trip. As a result of this fog, the meticulously planned scheduled had to be amended in places. One of those places that had its schedule amended: Ottawa. In particular, the day that the Queen was set to be in Ottawa was no longer than 19th!

In fact, instead, the Queen wasn’t in Ottawa until the twentieth. I suppose you can see where this is going. So, when the Queen “laid the cornerstone” for the building that houses the Supreme Court of Canada, the date was May 20th, 1939. However, the date on the stone read, May 19th, 1939.

So, why am I telling you this?

Well, the next time someone tries to tell you that something is “set in stone,” you have a perfect story to tell them about what it might mean to be “set in stone.”

Evidence that Liberals and Conservatives Can Have Civilized Conversations on Climate Change

This past summer, I talked about a segment on a cable news show in the US called, “All In With Chris Hayes.” I first started watching Chris Hayes when he started his weekly weekend show, “Up With Chris Hayes,” (that has since been renamed for the new host, Up With Steve Kornacki). I really liked his show because he often had guests on the show who were of differing ideologies. For some cable news networks, that’s big, but what was even bigger was that the people that were on the show — rarely — would scream at each other to make a point. That’s not to say the arguments never got heated — sometimes, they did — but there was still an element of civilized conversation. It’s what I imagine good political discourse should look like.

When Chris’s show moved to primetime, he tried to bring some of those same elements. There was a graphic a while back (this is the closest I could find) that showed Chris Hayes’ weekend show (or was it Melissa Harris-Perry’s? I don’t quite remember) was — by far — the most welcoming show for non-white male guests. Meaning, proportionally, the show had far more women and non-white people on the show than any of the other shows on cable news.

Anyway, back to the segment from this summer.

In the segment, Chris Hayes had on Tim Carney — a noted conservative. They were talking about what was a bit of a hot button issue at the time, but the two of them were able to actually participate in a civil discussion. No one tried to yell over the other and as a viewer, I left the segment feeling more informed about the issue from both perspectives.

A couple of days ago, Chris had Tim on the show again — this time to talk about climate change. When Chris first introduced the segment, I wondered if the discussion might descend into a yelling match, but I was pleased to find that wasn’t the case. In fact, someone of a liberal ideology (Chris Hayes) and someone of a conservative ideology (Tim Carney) were actually able to have a civil discussion about climate change. It was kind of amazing to see. In fact, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a cable news segment where that’s happened on the matter of climate change.

The end of the segment was my favourite part:

If we get to the point, Tim, if we get to the point where James Inhofe goes to the floor and says, ‘you know what the world is warming and carbon emissions are contributing to that warming, but the liberals are wrong with their solution’ and [Matt] Drudge goes on the front page of Drudge [Report] and says the world is warming, but the liberals are wrong about their solution,’ … nothing would make me happier.

In case you’re not very familiar with the climate change “debate,” there’s a sect who purport that climate change isn’t real. Usually, the ideology of people who makeup these kinds of groups are conservative, (but that doesn’t mean they speak for all conservatives or that they’re the only ones). As a result, this tends to make conservative politicians — as a way to cater to these voters — espouse the same kinds of opinions (Senator James Inhofe from Oklahoma being one of them).

That’s why Chris is saying that nothing would make him happier than to see noted conservative outlets (the Drudge Report) submit that climate change is real, but that the liberals are wrong about how to fix it. As far as I can tell, this is what many liberals have been wishing would be the case for some time. That is, ‘it’s okay if you don’t think we have the right solution, but can we at least agree that this thing is real and we have to do something about it?’

Why I Like Snow and Not for the Reasons You Might Think

I grew up in Canada. I’m Canadian. I lived in and around the Toronto area until I went off to university in Michigan. From there, I spent some time in warmer parts of the continent (California and British Columbia) and even spent some time in New Zealand and Hawaii. As I’ve spent some time away from Canada, I’ve been able to avoid “Canadian Winters.” In fact, this winter will be my first Canadian Winter in almost a decade.

As a Canadian, I can say that Canadian Winters aren’t all that bad, but I suppose that depends on where you live when you’re experiencing said Canadian Winter. Just a little while ago, Winnipeg experienced weather that was colder than Mars
and at the time, Mars was much farther from the Sun than Earth:

Folklore tells us that it can be “too cold to snow,” but a smart meteorologist will tell you that this isn’t true. Technically, it can never be too cold to snow (except when you reach absolute zero, but there are other things to worry about when this happens). However, snow can become far less likely when it’s colder and this has to do with a lack of water vapour in the cold air.

So, in my first Canadian Winter in almost a decade, I find myself elated whenever I see snow in the forecast or when I open the curtains to see it snowing. Of course, snow is quite pretty, so it’s fun to see it snowing and it can be fun to play in, but when I see it snowing, I know that it’s likely not that cold outside. I should also mention that I rarely, if ever, have to drive in said weather because I usually walk, so that may be colouring my experience. Nonetheless, it’s great to know that I won’t be needing to wear my long underwear just to walk down the street to get groceries.

Roles of a Shaman: A Brief Overview of Shamanism, Part 3

In yesterday’s post, we looked at the ways in which people become shamans. I also shared an anecdote from one of my classes where I learned that a shaman in one part of the world may be seen as someone with a disorder in another part of the world. In today’s post, we’ll look at the various roles of the shaman.


Roles of a Shaman

The various roles in which a shaman undertakes are closely related to the cultures that one is likely to find shamanism (Walsh, 1989). This is because a shaman plays many roles for their culture. The cultures in which we are likely to find shamans are “simple nomadic hunting and gathering societies” (p. 8). In these kinds of cultures, people do not generally rely on agriculture and have very little political organization or social class. As such, the shaman is left to play many roles: “medicine man, healer, ritualist, keeper of cultural myths, medium, and master of spirits” (p. 8). Krippner (2000) stated similar roles that shamans play: “Shamans were probably humanity’s original specialists, combining the roles of healers, storytellers, weather forecasters, performing artists, ritualists, and magicians” (p. 98). Krippner (2002) added “shamans appear to have been humankind’s first psychotherapists [and] first physicians” (p. 970). References to shamans as physicians can be seen more than once in the literature. Shortly, we will liken a shaman to a ‘general practitioner.’ Krycka (2000) argued that shamanic techniques are “the bridge between ancient and allopathic approaches to healing” (p. 69). The ties between a shaman and therapy are not hard to make, as there is evidence for similarities between shamans and therapists (Stone, 2008; Voss, Douville, Solider, & Twiss, 1999; Wiseman, 1999). Because of the lack of social class, shamans usually possessed a great deal of influence on their culture (Walsh, 1989). Winkleman (1989) noted that as societies evolved into sedentary, agricultural, and social/political stratification, shamanism seems to disappear. Instead of the shaman holding all of the previous roles that they had held, specialists assume some of the roles once had.

Walsh (1989) identified a noteworthy parallel to western society in that there was a disappearance of the old medical general practitioner and an “appearance of diverse specialists” (p. 9). Walsh continued saying that priests emerge as the representatives of organized religion and are responsible for engaging with spiritual forces. “However, unlike their shamanic ancestors they usually have little training or experience in altered state” (p. 9). Walsh explained that other members of the culture assumed the various roles of the shaman except for one – journeying. Walsh referred to the suppression of owning a drum in parts of Europe during the last century as being one possible explanation to this disappearance and made reference to the discovery of the powerful states associated with various yogic and meditate practices. It is not clear as to why this role of the shaman would have seemingly vanished into the nether, while the other roles were scooped up into other specialists’ responsibilities. Given how powerful altered states of consciousness are, it is plausible that the ‘powers that be’ when forming social/political stratification decided intentionally not to include this practice in their culture for fear of losing their power. There is no substantial evidence to support this claim, but that does not negate it as a possibility. Even given the seemingly intentional forgetfulness of the people in power during the formation of the earlier cultures that did not include shamans, shamanism is still around today and used by a variety of people. According to Larson (2002), “Shamanic healing was the first mode of healing to emerge, and it still thrives today in both traditional cultures as a principal form of healing and in developed societies as an alternative form of healing” (p. 256).

Given our discussion of the ‘disappearance’ of the shaman into ‘specialists’ with the introduction of social/political stratification, there is an interesting tribe that seems to have kept a ‘number’ of shamans. According to Krippner (2002), “There are many types of shamans. For example, among the Cuna Indians of Panama, the abisua shaman heals by singing, the inaduledi specializes in herbal cures, and the nele focuses on diagnosis” (p. 963). In this tribe, it seems as though instead of splitting up the various roles of the shaman and thusly doing away with the shaman, there already were various roles in place. Krippner does not go into much detail about the Cuna Indians and there is not any (that I was able to find) academic literature on the Cuna Indians. I was only able to find that it is more politically correct to refer to them as the Kuna and this was from Wikipedia, so it may or may not be accurate.

In this section, we have explored a number of topics. We have examined the various roles that a shaman can undertake: healer (psychotherapist and physician), medicine man, magician, storyteller, weather forecaster, performing artist, master of spirits, medium, ritualist, and keeper of cultural myths. We have also explored how the shamans originally assumed many roles and then subsequently relinquished many roles. We looked at some possible reasons as to why shamanic journeying was not assumed as the role of one of the many ‘specialists’ that emerged from the shaman’s roles. We also learned of some of the different types of shamans among the Cuna Indians of Panama. In the next section, we will summarize all that we learned about shamanism.


Check back tomorrow for the conclusion and the list of references.

Which US City Has the Worst Drivers: No Weather Variable?

A few days ago, there was an article on Slate that claimed to investigate which US city had the worst drivers. I thought the article was interesting as it’s probably something that everyone has an opinion on. That is, we all think that we know where the worst drivers in the US live. After reading the article, I was surprised — thoroughly — that there wasn’t a mention of weather.

Having grown up in Canada, (near Toronto), I am absolutely used to driving in snow and other forms of precipitation. After having lived in 4 different US states (and spending time in 31 others), I feel supremely confident in saying that not everyone is comfortable driving in forms of precipitation. While not an extraordinary revelation by any means, it still seems important. I had to read through the article a couple of times because I didn’t believe there was no mention of ice, snow, snain, or something else related. Weather absolutely affects the way that people drive and their comfort with precipitation will have certainly affect their ability to drive.


I’ve written before about unexpected snow in Washington, DC, but I don’t think I’ve talked about one of the conversations I’ve had with someone who’s lived in Metro DC for over a decade. She was explaining to me that, not only do you have such a wide variety of drivers in the DC area (those who’ve moved from the South or those who’ve moved from the North or those who’ve moved from the West, etc.), but you’ve also got the weather. More specifically, she was explaining that the “moderate” winters in DC make it awful for driving conditions. When the temperature hovers near freezing, the afternoon rain turns into morning ice. For those who have no experience driving in icy conditions, it can certainly cause drivers to be extra cautious (or mistakenly, not be cautious enough).

This is why I think it is important for any discussion of “the worst drivers” to include a weather variable. Sometimes, we need to be careful we’re not misappropriating the blame.

Remembering What’s Important to You: Lessons from Hurricane Irene

With much of the for the potential effects of , I can’t help but think of what an opportunity this could be for many people. I keep hearing the figure being quoted as how many that are potentially affected by this storm. That’s just about 20% of the population of the US (think: 1 in 5 Americans). That’s a lot of people. I would call this an opportunity for some because of the chance these people will be given to reflect on what’s important to them. Let me explain.

Many people go about their daily schedule without much thought for what happens outside of this schedule. This is not to say that there’s anything wrong with this, but just to say that this is common for most people. They get up in the morning, go to work, come home, , go to bed, and repeat. Unless there is something that shakes up this routine, many people will continue on in this way for a long time. Layman’s terms of says that an object in motion tends to remain in motion. In this instance, the object is the person fulfilling the routine. Unless something interferes with this “motion,” the motion will continue.

The prevailing opinions about events like these tend to revolve around words like . While this viewpoint is understandable, I would hasten and suggest reading the wise words of “” My point in raising the idea that an event like Hurricane Irene can be seen as an opportunity for some is that this shake-up, this wrench in their otherwise “object in motion,” could allow someone to see that they aren’t necessarily doing what it is that they want to be doing. Maybe they’re working at a job that they aren’t passionate about. Maybe they don’t know what their passion is. Maybe they aren’t spending enough time with their spouse and kids. Maybe they don’t have a spouse and want one. Maybe they wish they could have travelled to Europe, Asia, South America, or Africa. Maybe they wish they could have travelled to (or within) North America.

There are any number of things that could be realized as a result of an act of nature such as this one. Not everyone has the willpower to take a break (or ) from their routine to see the things that they wish they were including in their lives. Maybe it’s the of an event like Irene that some people need to be able to see the things that they’re missing out on in their life. While it may not seem like it at first, this is wonderful! Remember that there are those of us who, even when the wrench obstructs our object in motion, will condemn the wrench for wrecking our routine rather than take a step back to examine what the wrench’s purpose might be.